Fran Orenstein (Author of Gaia’s Gift)
Please join in the discussion and leave some questions for Fran and some comments. I am your host for this interview: Fran Lewis.
Title of your novel and a short summary.
My newest novel is Gaia’s Gift, a contemporary novel: Rachel Wells loses everything she cherishes in a brief summer storm off the coast of Florida. Haunted by the ghosts of her past, driven to the point of insanity by survivor’s guilt, Rachel turns her back on the world and retreats to a deserted island with her cat. Here she plans to live out her life in isolation, frozen behind an impenetrable veil of pain.
That is until she receives a gift from the sea that opens a slit in the veil and allows the world to intrude. Ignoring her conscience, Rachel learns too late that some gifts are not meant to be kept forever, and that forgiveness and redemption sometimes require sacrifice. The gods and spirits watch as the many layers of love unfold to reveal a complex finale.
How did you choose the main topic or theme for your book?
Four years ago, when my granddaughter, Rachel was nine, she called with an idea for a children’s book, which was the age group I wrote for at the time. I loved her idea but then realized that it would work better from the perspective of the woman as the main character. I incorporated most of Rachel’s ideas and added some more paranormal and metaphysical overtones and the result is Gaia’s Gift, a contemporary novel, written especially for women.
Which character do you love the most? Which one would you like to kill off or change something about?
I love all my characters, but probably Abigail, the child whose story spans 11 years in the book. I have some ethical problems with the choices made by the protagonist, Rachel, but I understand her and why she did what she did. I’m non-violent, so there is no character I would kill off, even those whom Rachel perceived as betraying her.
Where does your story take place and why?
The story takes place off the Southwest Coast of Florida in an unnamed, fictitious location. I live in the area and wanted to write a book that took place in my adopted place of residence.
What makes your book stand out above the rest? Why is your story unique?
It’s a story that reveals the strengths and weaknesses of us all and the choices we make every day to survive. It’s about a woman with different ideas in a metaphysical and environmental sense, and who maintains those beliefs despite the world around her. She creates an environment conducive to these beliefs and raises the child in that world. The paranormal aspects of the book add an element of the supernatural. The essence is still a love story on many levels and the sacrifices one woman makes for love.
What has been the most surprising part of your journey as a writer?
The evolving nature of my books from ‘tween to YA to adult and the different genres I’ve chosen. It’s an exciting journey that leaves me open to diversity in the subject matter and for the age group. I also write poetry for adults and children, as well as short stories.
How many new ideas do you have? Do you keep a list or are your thoughts on your computer?
I have enough ideas, beginnings, and plots to write for the next ten years without stopping. I have a file on my computer, where I keep a list of storylines, plot ideas, and just general notes. I also have scraps of paper all over the office, which turn up every so often, crying to be computerized.
What are the main or essential qualities of a good novel? How do you keep the reader pinned to the printed page throughout the novel?
The writer has to keep the novel moving with action, subplots that move it forward, tension, and evolving characters. I don’t use fillers, such as pages of description. My books are concise because I believe that less is more and keeps the reader involved. As a reader, I will often skip technical parts and descriptions because I want to read a story, not a manual or travel brochure.
How do you create an ending that no one will get?
When I was in my teens, one of my favorite authors was O’Henry, who always left the reader wondering and imagining at the end of his stories. That’s what I try to do. I want readers to ask me if there will be a sequel so they can find what else is going to happen. That to me is the best review I can get. It meant they got involved enough to care about the characters. I leave the book open-ended to trigger the reader’s imagination and desire for more.
How have you marketed your books? Which strategies have worked and which have not?
Marketing is every author’s nightmare. It takes up so much time that it’s hard to find time to write. Just answering questionnaires like this one, and I have done a number of these, takes time away from writing. However, if the book is ever going to be read and succeed, people have to know about it. The following list seems to work: make contacts by joining organizations, professional societies, giving out PR material like bookmarks, doing book sales and signings, sending email announcements, creating and maintaining a website, Facebook and other online sites, having a marketing-savvy publisher, and developing helpful friends who will exchange publicity events. Everything works in its own way, but if you can afford it, hire a publicist to do some of the marketing.
During the long road to publishing your novel, what obstacles did you face?
Over the past 20 or so years, I’ve had unscrupulous publishers, agents who did nothing for me, and two file drawers of rejection slips that I finally shredded this past year. I finally decided that publishing with small, POD publishers was the route to go if I ever wanted to see my writing in print and read.
What made you decide to become a writer?
My mother was a story-teller from the time I was very little. I grew up in libraries because she was an inveterate reader. My initial foray into writing was around age eight when I wrote my first poem after reading Bambi, which moved me very much. I’ve always wanted to write, sending out my first submission of a short story to a magazine when I was twelve. I worked on school newspapers, worked for a national magazine as an editor/writer, and wrote speeches, brochures, newsletters, and presentations for the State of NJ.
When you write do you outline each chapter or do you just write and see where the character takes you?
I need to let my imagination take me where it will. I use a storyboard for reference to define the characters and the general scope of the story, then I go where my mind leads me.
What are three things your character would like to tell you if he/she could speak to you in person?
Thank you for telling my story. Thank you for bringing me to life. Thank you for giving me Abigail and Ben.
Where can we find your book, your blogs, websites and what are all of your titles?
Gaia’s Gift is published by World Castle Publishing and is currently on Amazon.com and Kindle until the middle of April when it will be on all ebook readers and other online publishers. It can be ordered from the publisher, through my website and on order from bookstores.